Episode 10: Kat Martin

WhirlwindNew York Times Bestselling author Kat Martin writes romantic suspense like no one else. Her series include the BOSS, Inc. series, The Against Series/Raines of Wind Canyon, The Brodies of Alaska, and The Sinclair Sisters Trilogy. She has two series of paranormal romantic suspense, as well as Historical Romances, Contemporaries, and stand-alone novels.

I can’t possibly list them all, much less in order, but luckily I don’t have to because Kat has a printable checklist on her site.

We talk about her latest novel, Into the Whirlwind, the second book in the BOSS, Inc. series, and about creating the deep relationships and characters that make her novels so satisfying to read. We also talk about her own adventures with her husband (including a mystery/romance/western that they wrote together!) and a new writing adventure: her first thriller comes out early next year.

As always, if you’d rather read than listen, the transcript is below. Enjoy!

Transcript of Interview with Kat Martin

Laura Brennan: Kat Martin is a New York Times Bestselling author of over 60 novels, ranging from romantic suspense to historical romance, with some paranormal, contemporary, and western tales thrown in just to keep things interesting.

She has over fifteen million copies of her books in print and has been published around the world. Her most recent novel, Into the Whirlwind, continues the BOSS, Inc series with Dirk and Meg’s explosive story.

Kat, thank you so much for joining me.

Kat Martin: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

LB: Well, first of all, congratulations. Because as we record this, Into the Whirlwind has just launched.

KM: Just hit the shelves this morning. I was on Facebook and it’s always exciting because everyone really gets excited and they all Facebook and it’s kind of a fun day.

LB: So let’s jump back just a bit. You actually didn’t start out as a writer. You began in a different profession.

KM: You know, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I went to college. I just took general courses at the University and then I got out and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I ended up, I wanted to say in Santa Barbara where I went to the University of Santa Barbara, UCSB, wanted to stay in that gorgeous town.

So I pretty much just went knocking doors to find a job and I thought, well, I’ll just take anything I can get till I can figure this out a little better. And it was really hard, it took me 30 days to find a job knocking on doors five days a week, you know. But I finally found a job, and it happened to be in the title business, which is real estate related. So after I was in the business for about five or six years, I realized that if I wanted to make any money I had to get out of this and get into something that was — you know, you can work on commissions in real estate. So that’s what I did, I got out and I got into the actual business of selling houses. And that’s what I did for 13 years. Then I started writing after that.

LB: How did you decide you wanted to write?

KM: Because my husband had written a novel. I was actually just dating him at the time, and he wrote this book just on a whim. And it was a really neat book and I thought, well I love to read, so I read his book, but he couldn’t sell it. He kept trying to sell it and it never sold. And I thought, why is this book not selling? Because it’s such a great story, I love this book. And I thought — so anyway, I started working on it. I said, well let me look at. And so I read it and loved it, but then I thought, well I’m going to read it now like an editor. And I realized, there wasn’t spellcheck in those days, it was all full of spelling errors, it had tons of grammatical errors because he really didn’t know how to — he was a very good at that. I was really good at it so I thought, well I’ll just work on his book, fix it up and he can sell it. Well it took me weeks, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. It was really hard! But in the meantime of working on that, and seeing how a novel was structured and everything, I thought, you know I think I can do this. I’m going to try it myself. And that’s how it happened, I did his and then I thought, oh man, I’m going to try this. And I tried it and once I decided I really liked it, I mean I really felt that I had found my true calling. Finally! After all those years.

LB: Yeah, 60 books later. And they’re good books.

KM: Well, thank you.

LB: You’re very welcome, but what’s amazing to me is how you can genre hop.

KM: The core of it’s the same. You know if you think about it, the core of it, you know, it really is pretty much a suspense in every book. I wrote one book that was a little Christmas story, that was a novella that was a hardcover. And it was the only thing, it took me forever to write that, it took me two years. And it was 200 pages, you know? And I write 500 pages in a manuscript. But it was, it took me two years because it was so different. I couldn’t get the rhythm right. I didn’t have anything to really focus on. But what I normally, if you look at all those different books, the core is the same. It’s an adventure, it’s intrigue and suspense, and then it set in modern day or set in historical times or set in a paranormal situation or something like that. But course pretty much the same. So even though you’re setting the time frame different, your books have a similarity to them I think.

LB: One thing that your fans all love about your books is your pacing. There are surprises and twists and turns. How hard is that to pull off?

KM: I think, you know, it’s very hard. Honestly, writing is the hardest job you could ever have, and I ran an art gallery for a while when I first got married. I did that for a while, had to study because I didn’t know anything about art. I liked art but I didn’t really know much about it. So I studied it and I did it and I did my real estate, you know I’ve had a lot of jobs, obviously in between different things and honestly there’s no job harder than writing. There’s not a job as satisfying either, I mean it’s sort of like both sides. But it’s really difficult. I think if it’s that easy for you, might be easy for you a book or two. For me it started hard, got harder, stayed hard. Because if you want to get better, you know you’re always trying to get better or certainly equal to the last book. And you know you don’t want to be a disappointment. So you always have to be really on top of the whole thing. It’s a very difficult job, it’s not easy.

LB: Your series books are sort of loosely interconnected with heroes from one making appearances in another. Do you plan that out or do you fall in love with a side character as you write?

KM: I fall in love with a side character. And actually if you really look at them, they’re kind of in sections. Like there’s nobody — I wrote 12 of the Against books and then I’ve done three of these Into books, and they’re really pretty, they might roll sort of sideways but they really don’t reappear much. They did a little bit in these, but you know, they kind of just know each other, but it’s not a — I really try to stay away from that. Because I find it, when I read a book that has a lot of series, like maybe you have 10 books in a series and they try to include all those people, it’s so confusing and you just lose track of the focus. I don’t mind a little bit of like, they walk into the office and say hello kind of thing where they might have to help in a situation, but I really try to not get it too complicated with the number of people that know each other at all that stuff. In Whirlwind, Luke Brodie shows up. Ethan’s in it, he’s the first guy, but Luke’s coming up in the next book. And they do, they kind of hang together and that’s even, for me, is even a little unusual. But you’ll see there’s not a lot. But I didn’t plan to do Dirk’s book.

LB: Really?

KM: I thought he was — No I wasn’t going to do him. He wasn’t one of the three guys. I knew I was going to do three books with BOSS, Inc. One was Luke Brodie, one was Ethan Brodie, and I had one kind of spare person, whoever showed up, right? And it was so funny because when I got done with Into the Fury, which is the first one, Meg and Dirk broke up. I didn’t really plan it just had to be that way, you know it just came up and it was in the story and the way had written the characters, they couldn’t just be happily ever after. All of a sudden I was like, oh, my god, I left them so brokenhearted, I have to go back and fix it. That’s why I wrote, that’s why they got their book. I can’t stand to see that. I had to make them have a happy ending. He’s one of my favorites, he turned out to be one of my favorite guys. So I don’t usually do second chances, if you notice in this book, they really didn’t have much of a chance to get to know each other, that was the problem. The only had a few, I don’t know how much time had together, they only had — they had a few weeks and then they had maybe like a week when they got back to Seattle. So not very long. And that was what was really the basis of the story. I didn’t want them to be madly — they were kind of madly in love, but nobody kind of figured it out. They didn’t have enough time to figure it out. So they needed a new, they needed, start over really and that’s what I liked about this book. I like them to build. But it was nice that they worked it out.

LB: You also drag your heroes into what they need, as opposed to what they think they want.

KM: Yeah, I think that makes it interesting, you know. Strangely enough, Dirk actually wanted a relationship with her and she wouldn’t do it, then she realized that — and she did it for the right reasons I think. I mean, she thought, this will never work. This guy’s got a tattoo, he writes a Harley, I’ve got a baby and blah blah blah, so… But she really didn’t give him a chance to show his true nature and so in this book it’s kind of an eye-opener for her in a lot of ways. But I like that. My first guy, he’d had a bad experience with women, so he was reluctant to say the least. Ethan Brodie. And Luke is a really interesting guy. I think that book, I think readers are like that book a lot. Really that was one of my favorites. I just really liked that. And I had no idea how that was going to turn out at all. But I knew I loved Luke. By the time you get through this book, if you don’t like Luke Brodie, I mean the guy is so cool. He’s really Mr. Cool. He’s just fun. He’s a lot of fun. He’s funny, he’s a funny guy. I like the humor, you know.

LB: So I don’t know what you can tell me about Luke’s story. I know I’m dying to read Luke’s story.

KM: Well, you know he’s a bounty hunter. So he meets a lady bounty hunter. That was really hard for me because I don’t really write women who are — I mean, they’re superstrong women, I think, but they’re not women who would go out in a man’s, try to be a, you know, a bounty hunter or a… In fact I’m getting ready to write a girl that’s a lady, a private investigator. But it’s more, she’s a digger more than she is, like running around with a gun shooting people or anything. But I tend to write women who are, you know they’re strong but they’re strong because they have to be. I’m 5 foot one you know, so my strength has to be mental. And I see my women that way. Even though Meg is really tall, me she’s 5′ 10″, she was a model. But she feminine. She’s really a feminine woman, so she had to be — so anyway, I struggle with the lady bounty hunter at first but then I, actually felt really good about it. They made her really short, I thought that would be really an interesting twist. So I made her, she’s about 5 foot two, I think. She has to use her brain because she’s not very big. And there was a real person like that, that I based her on. Which I try to do if I can. There’s a 4’11” bounty hunter, world-famous, woman in Texas and I read up on her and I thought, oh man, and she used her head more. And I like that idea, that okay this could work.

LB: So you have something a little different on the horizon. You have a thriller coming out. What can you tell me about Beyond Reason?

KM: Well, we’ve talked about this, my editor I have talked about this a bit, because I really think that I’ve been writing thrillers. I mean you just read a book that starts off in Seattle and they end up in Argentina in a military compound. I mean it’s pretty much a thriller. So it’s a romantic thriller because it’s a big story, and it is, it’s a big story. This one moves a little faster because you have a baby, it’s in jeopardy, you have to, you just have to move fast. While the other book is about them trying to figure out what the heck is going on, and protect themselves at the same time. So I mean there’s a murder, she’s at the funeral for this man that worked for her, this young girl. Now this girl, she’s fairly feminine, but she runs, she inherited a trucking company from her grandfather. It’s a big company, you know so she has — but she doesn’t know how to do what she needs to do, but she’s determined to do it and so she has to kind of find her strength in it. And that’s what it’s about. The hero, I love this guy, his name is Lincoln Kane, 6 foot five, ways 200 and, I don’t know, 35 pounds. I mean, he’s just this big guy. And he’s a multimillionaire and he is also in the business, and he knew the grandfather, so he has made a promise to the grandfather to watch out for this girl. She doesn’t need a whole lot of watching out, but she, she gets involved with, some people come after her that are drug dealers over this trucking company. They’re really intimidating her over this. So it throws them together. It really came out to be — and it has a lot of twists, I’m really happy with that. It really came out good that way. So it was interesting to write, but I was nervous. But I’m always nervous, so…

LB: You also wrote a book with your husband, right? Tin Angel?

You know what happened is, we had an agent, we shared an agent at that time, and she came to us and she said — the big show on at that time was Moonlighting. Bruce Willis was in Moonlighting. And she said let’s write a, you guys ought to write a book together, write a Western together with that premise, that they were in business together. So we thought well — I didn’t want to do it. But my husband wanted to. I was afraid we’d fight too much. He came up with this plot and it was so, he writes a lot of humor and I had never tried anything funny and so he wrote the opening 10 pages it was so funny that I thought oh my god I have to do this. So we ended up, he wrote the man’s part and I wrote the woman’s part and we alternated back and forth. When it came to the end, though, the editor said it was not quite romancy enough. So that I had rewrite it. I had to do the final rewrite, which he hated. But they tried to take out a lot of the stuff he wrote, which was the funny stuff. And I told them, I said you guys hired us to write this together, you wanted us to do it. Now put it back in there. And they did. They put it back in. I was surprised. He would say something like, she had Palomino hair — she was a Palomino blonde, that’s what it was. They took it out! I mean, why would you think that was bad, I didn’t think it was bad. So that kind of stuff, it took out references like that, that were kind of masculine references. But they did put them back in. So it ended up pretty funny. It doesn’t sound like either one of us, really. I thought it was cute, I mean to me that’s what makes the book so different. And it is a cute book. It’s just different. It doesn’t sound like me, it doesn’t sound like him — it sounds more like him than me, because he really wrote more of it. But then I wrote the final stuff on it and brought more of a romantic tone to it. But it’s — Jake, he owns a whorehouse. She doesn’t know it’s a whorehouse, that’s what made the book funny. She comes out West to find her father who has died and left her this whorehouse and so he’s the manager. She owns 51% and he owns 49%, which was pretty funny in itself because she doesn’t know anything about managing. Anyway, it’s a fun story, we had fun doing it as it turned out. But no, we aren’t doing another one.

LB: Well then, let me end on this then: what you love most about writing?

KM: I think probably the independence of it. Because if you are the type — the problem with it is, of all of us that started together, I don’t think there’s — gosh I’m trying to think. Brenda Joyce started with me, she still writes. Not too many of us left. I mean very few. Because a lot of the problem is they were kind of badgered into changing their styles and stuff. Pretty soon, if you had a specific something about your writing that was unique, if you change it to please somebody, pretty soon you have anything. And that’s what happened to a lot of them. That, and they just wore out. It’s pretty hard. So they just wore out, a lot of them. But some of them, a few of them are still in there. Heather Graham, we’ve been friends for many many years and she’s been, god, I don’t know how many books that woman’s written. A lot. But if you’re gonna write what you’re going to write, you gotta stick to it. If that’s what you want.

LB: Is anything I missed? Is there anything else that you like to say?

KM: Just look for my new book. I had a great time writing it and I think readers are really gonna have fun with the book. Got some good humor but it’s got plenty of adventure, thrills and all that good stuff.

LB: Oh, Into the Whirlwind is a powerhouse, it’s a fantastic book.

I really felt good when I got to the end of that one. Sometimes you’re nervous about them, but I was feeling good about this one. I thought, one of my strengths to me, is my pacing. You said that. But it’s also a negative, because some people think, because I don’t write a lot of — I really write a lot of dialogue. Tons of dialogue. Mostly dialogue. So I don’t have a lot of extraneous stuff in it. And you know they think, well, she doesn’t have enough, she must be a terrible writer because she doesn’t put a lot of description or whatever it is. And I just don’t. I really try to let the people talk to each other and say what you’d say. That’s what I think I do best. So I tried to stay true to it, you know. But anyway I hope people will look for Into the Whirlwind, and I hope they like it. That’s all I can say. I hope they like it.